FIRST LOOK @ THE YELLOW WALLPAPER IN PRODUCTION
PIQUANT PHOTO / JUSTINE M. JOHNSON COLLABORATION
Coming off of their critically acclaimed production of MARAT/SADE, which received rave reviews from press and audiences alike over the course of its month long run, OUT LOUD heads into the second installment of their 3-Part Series "That Way Madness Lies" with The Yellow Wallpaper: A 4-Part Immersive Experience (Ritual, Light, Color, & Escape) based on Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 6,000 word short story of the same name. This massive undertaking by the OUT LOUD ensemble opens this June as OUT LOUD continues its residency with 134 Collaborative at 134 Mathewson Street in Providence, RI.
"The Yellow Wallpaper tells the story of a woman who starts to see haunting images in a sickly yellow pattern on the wall of her bedroom," says ensemble member, Sarah Leach. "The original story takes you on the journey of one woman's decent into her own mind and the madness that overtakes her in her isolation," says director and founding Artistic Director, Kira Hawkridge. "We not only experience the overall given circumstances of her marriage and the misguided "treatment" of an undisclosed "sickness" (put into effect by her husband), but of the bond formed with her surroundings and the physical manifestation of her own internal reality."
This 4-Part series is a year in the making - wholly adapted, devised, and performed by Season 5 Performance Ensemble Representatives Siobhan LaPorte-Cauley (Part 1: Ritual), Ottavia De-Luca (Part 2: Light), Sarah Leach (Part 3:Color), and Erika Rethorn (Part 4: Escape), under the direction of Hawkridge. All 4 Performance Ensemble Representatives portray both "The Woman" and "The Wallpaper", respectively, as OUT LOUD's 4-Part series unfolds Thursday - Sunday, revealing each part one at a time.
“The original story takes you on the journey of one woman’s descent into her own mind and the madness that overtakes her in her isolation,” Hawkridge says. “We not only experience the overall given circumstances of her marriage but the bond formed with her surroundings and the physical manifestations of her own internal reality.”
BroadwayWorld RI Guest Blogs
BWW Rhode Island welcomes the four-woman cast of OUT LOUD Theatre's The Yellow Wallpaper to the BroadwayWorld guest blog. The Yellow Wallpaper, directed by Kira Hawkridge, is the second installment in OUT LOUD's fifth season, "That Way Madness Lies." This production presents a fully immersive, four-part experience; each part tells a complete story from beginning to end, but the individual pieces - RITUAL, LIGHT, COLOR, and ESCAPE - provide meditations on Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper as viewed through varying lenses.
At the start of this process over a year ago, I had never read The Yellow Wallpaper, but I had discussed it on several occasions with Kira [Hawkridge, OUT LOUD Theatre's Artistic Director] as a someday-dream-project for OUT LOUD. When I read the story, it didn't feel like a perspective from 125 years ago. It feels current and stirring and relevant: how clear and urgent the voice is. This woman, a writer, must give up her livelihood and creative fulfillment for prescribed "wellness" under orders from a male doctor -- who is also her husband. Her entire life and all her choices are controlled; she is told how to live and who to be. Her ultimate rebellion against the patriarchy is embracing her "illness"; it is when she accepts this part of herself that she truly leaves her husband's and society's control behind.
We all have the same yellow notebook to jot down our thoughts throughout the process. The first sentence in my notebook is: "you are never not your woman." I find myself coming back to that sentence over and over again. In a way, it's obvious - you are always yourself. But there's more in there. It was an existential crisis right from the start, maybe in a good way. We all play the same Woman, so if I am "never not" my woman, then I am also always the other women in the room, since they are me. But at the same time, they too are trapped in themselves, so they can't really be me. It's this endless cycle that connects me so much to The Woman in the story: she is trapped and she is lost, and she needs to find herself and find her way out, and maybe that's the same thing.
It's said that the most frightening thing a human can experience is the inside of their own mind. Throughout this entire year-long process, this idea has stuck with me the most. It's the reason my blood chilled when I read Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper for the first time - I thought, "Oh my god, I'm reading a horror story." It's the reason psychological thrillers give me more nightmares than any jump-scare slasher film. And I think it's the reason that mental illness is so misunderstood. We hold the idea of mental illness at arm's length, because to bring it any closer would mean realizing horrors we'd, let's be honest, rather pretend didn't exist.
Over the past five years I've seen OUT LOUD Theatre grow with each production. Trusting her ensemble to build with her, Kira [Hawkridge, Artistic Director] has encouraged this company to explore the mental through physical storytelling. This piece is a perfect example of this process, having built specifically from the work done in Season 4, our "free" season. We were free to explore themes of justice and truth, challenging ourselves to use our entire bodies. This allowed us to take the beautifully chilling story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, meditate on her themes, and realize there's no one way to do this piece.
- "Just came home from OUT LOUD Theatre's production of The Yellow Wallpaper. We saw "Light" tonight and it was amazing. Kira Hawkridge and company pushed theatrical boundaries and created a totally immersive experience that is everything live theatre should be. My daughter and I talked about it all the way home. As I lived this production, because you are never a mere observer in an OUT LOUD work, I kept thinking "I am so glad my daughter is seeing this." Edgy, artful, meaningful. Thank you!"
- "I saw LIGHT this evening - an amazing journey down a rabbit hole! Congratulations Kira Hawkridge and OUT LOUD Theatre for creating something special. Will be back tomorrow to see COLOR. Can't wait."
- "[An] extraordinary experience. Can't wait for the other two!"
- "Just finished my marathon weekend of OUT LOUD Theatre's 4 part series of 'The Yellow Wallpaper'. It was amazing, different, creative, and just plain woah. These ladies are amazing and so powerful. I highly recommend everyone go and see this terrifyingly beautiful 4 part series and marathon as I did. You won't be disappointed! These tickets are going to sell out very very fast. Get your tickets, like, 10 minutes ago!"
- "Great job to all involved!"
- "The Yellow Wallpaper grabs you by the gut, and stirs up your mind...and you will be grateful that it did both. Innovative interpretation of this relevant, disturbing essay, and superb acting."